Sofia, Bulgaria

Night Bus from Istanbul to Sofia

I fortunately slept most of the bus ride. I think a mix of not sleeping well on the plane and walking around “Old Town” Istanbul all day, I was beat. Other than getting up to make the boarder crossing, I pretty much slept the whole time. The bus did make a stop at McDonalds at about 4:30AM, but they don’t seem to do breakfast food in Bulgaria and I was not ready to eat a Big Mac at that hour. While sitting outside the McDonalds, I was able to take in a beautiful mountain range, check out some horses that were running through a field, and smell some fresh air that was lacking in the bus. Didn’t seem like the air worked at all and I felt so greasy. Yuck!

 Sofia, Here I Come!

When I arrived at the bus station, I didn’t know what direction to go. I was able to ask one travel agent a few questions about where to get some tourist information and where to book a bus to Skopje, Macedonia. I found that I was at the international bus station and needed to go to the local station across the road. I was able to get a map of Sophia, leave my main pack at a storage booth, and head out into the town. The first thing I was looking for was a place to get some wifi, and while I was at it, grab a couple cups of coffee!

Now, something I found in a number of my encounters in Sofia, other than that first travel agent lady and the Free Walking Tour guide, people come off rude. The information desk lady at the bus station, the workers at the coffee shop, a bartender, and the ticket booth lady all just seemed so rude. Not sure if it’s the service industry or a cultural thing.

Free Sofia Walking Tour  (The link will connect you to the website to show the complete tour itinerary)

The Free Sofia Walking Tour started at 11AM and the people that arrived were split into two groups. I found this tour exceptional and it gave me a lot of insight into a number of famous landmarks around the city.  For anyone who plans to visit Sofia, the walking tour is a must. I guess there is also a bike tour that takes visitors to farther outskirt places. If I was here one more day, I would have done that too. Glad to see cities invest in their tourism infrastructure.

Here are are my favorite sites, in the order I saw them. Click on the links to read a little history and to check out my pictures!!

1. Sveta Nedelya Church (Picture 1)

2. Banya Bashi Mosque (Picture 1)

3. Sveta Petka Samardzhiiska Church (Picture 1)

4. St. Sophia Statue (Picture 1) (Picture 2)

5. Guard in Traditional Uniform (Picture 1)

6. St. George Rotunda (Picture 1)

7. St. Sophia Church (Picture 1) (Picture 2)

8. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Picture 1)

9. Random Photos (Natural Spring Fountains) (Tram Cars)

So, my time in Sofia is finished. It was quick, but I got a lot out of it in the short time. The craziest thing I experienced was on my walk to the bus station. I had stopped at a bar to grab a Bulgarian beer before I headed to the bus stop, but I got caught in a half hour down pour with hail. Very large hail!!!! I got dinged on the top of the head pretty hard before I made it to cover. I even ended up sharing a guard booth with two Bulgarians who decided to smoke out the place. Neither spoke English and one wall in this shack was covered with pictures of naked women taken out of dirty mags. Now I wonder what these guards do in their free time? I don’t think I want to know!! Haha

The Hail Storm from Hell Video

Finally, I did make it to the station on time and I now have about a five hour bus ride ahead of me. I guess it gives me a little time to write. Unfortunately, we are stuck in a traffic jam, probably from the storm, trying to get out of Sofia. Looking down on the cars from my mini bus, all I can wonder is how bad car insurance companies are cringing. Most of these cars have serious hail damage. I honestly have NEVER seen a hail storm this bad from my recollection, and I’ve witnessed some pretty bad storms!

Half way to Skopje, we ended up picking up two more passengers. They both live in Skopje and were able to help me get into a legit taxi! I guess the taxi drivers can be a pretty shady and try to rip off us travelers. I got some contact info from them, so it’s possible I’ll meet up with them again when I get to Serbia. I also made it to the hostel with all the hair on my head and decided to stay a second night to regroup and enjoy Skopje when I wake up!

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